DETROIT -- Jim OSullivan, Mazdas top U.S. executive, recalls a time when auto dealers suggested the company make a pickup.
Call it the M-150, dealers said. They wanted something like the then-top-selling F-150 made by Ford Motor Co., Mazdas partial owner.
Good thing he didnt listen.
We couldnt go there with Mazda because it didnt fit the brand, OSullivan told Automotive News. A lot of manufacturers went there. For Ford, its natural. But a lot of Asian-based manufacturers recently were looking at jumping into the fray. Some have, and now some of them are backing up.
Mazda stuck to cars, and now OSullivan says it may be on its way to flat sales for the year in a market when nearly everyone else will be down.
Through the first half of 2008, Mazda sales are at 153,141 units. Thats up 0.3 percent from the first six months in 2007, a year in which it was the only automaker to post a double-digit sales increase.
Good steady growth
We didnt chase volume for volumes sake like a lot of other manufacturers, OSullivan said. Were maintaining a good steady growth, and were going to continue to do it.
OSullivan spoke today here at an event for the production launch of the redesigned Mazda6. The car is scheduled to arrive in dealerships next month.
While he didnt give details on Mazdas plans for overall growth, OSullivan said the Mazda6 will be a good indicator of how big the automaker can get in North America.
Mazda hopes to reach 100,000 units of the Mazda6 in full-year sales in North America, OSullivan said. In the United States last year, Mazda6 sales were 57,575.
The previous-generation Mazda6 was built to fit the needs of the global market, he said. The Mazda6 that was built in Japan was identical to the one that was built here. We need North American-focused product now, and weve done that.
Holding Mazda back in the United States is a shortage of its small Mazda3 car and Mazda5 minivan.
We are limited on production, and were limited on volume because were selling them when we get our hands on them, OSullivan said.
I need substantially more Mazda3s and Mazda5s in this market -- several thousands more. Ive got my hands up.
Dan Morris, Mazdas global sales and marketing manager in Japan, said Mazda is struggling to produce enough Mazda3s and Mazda5s because the vehicles are in high demand in other markets as well, such as Europe.
Well continue to fill demand as best we can to meet the customers needs, Morris told Automotive News.
OSullivan said Mazdas 675 U.S. dealers have whittled inventory of the Mazda6 to prepare for the redesigned versions launch. As a result, Mazda expects to see some diminished sales months.
He added: We really dont have a lot of cars out there right now, so our numbers are going to be off a bit for the month of July.